Saratoga WarHorse is a non-profit organisation in New York state, which helps military veterans heal from the devastating emotional effects of Post Traumatic Stress. The emotional healing that begins with the nonverbal, nonjudgmental acceptance of a horse enables veterans to feel safe enough to be themselves, and this is essentially the first step in their healing process.
The organisation offers veterans a three-day experience that has proven to be effective and invaluable for those struggling to adjust to life after military service. Their Connection Process helps bridge the barrier of shame and isolation created by Post Traumatic Stress, utilising the silent language of horses and enabling a mutual trust and profound bond to be established. This goes beyond verbal communication.
As one veteran says, “War kills your sense of trust. When I came home, I didn’t know if somebody wanted to be with me to make me feel good or to make themselves feel good. My horse didn’t know me from before the war. All he knew was what he saw when we met. He didn’t want anything from me, didn’t expect anything. I didn’t have to talk about my feelings; I could just feel them, and he was okay with it. He opened me up. When I realised he had started to trust me, it was the first time since I had come home from the war that I felt like me, like I had gotten my old self back.”
The program’s founder and director, Bob Nevins, started the program five years ago following a news report on the number of suicide rates of military veterans. He himself served in Vietnam as a medevac pilot and was wounded in action in 1971. In 2011, he retired from his career as an airline captain and used his personal savings to establish the foundation.
Saratoga WarHorse creates a winning situation for both returning veterans and off-the-track thoroughbreds, by providing an effective alternative method for healing emotional wounds as well as offering the horses rewarding and meaningful work after their racing careers have ended.
I would love to hear about similar equine programs you may know about globetrotters. Please feel free to share.
Reference: Saratoga WarHorse
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